Sam Wise steps into the world of digital guitar modelling with this crossover amplifier for the acoustic, electric, and bass guitar.
For many years, electric guitarists have faced a problem; such a multiplicity of guitars and amps with very different tones has been available to them, meaing that choosing a rig has been a tricky business. Many a promising career has failed to progress because the guitarist couldn’t leave his bedroom ‘til he had that one last axe or stomp box that would give him or her the perfect tone. These days, our plank-spanking brethren have solved the problem by way of the modelling amp, a beast of a box which largely ignores the tone of the instrument plugged into it, and instead produces a digital tone purporting to replicate whichever combination of guitar, amp and effects you’ve selected. Acoustic guitarists, however, have been much slower to respond to this trend, and modelling amps/pedals have gained little foothold. That’s something Peavey hope to change with the Vypyr series.
Build quality and features
The first thing to understand about the Vypyr is that it’s actually not an acoustic amp per se. Indeed, it’s not really even a guitar amp; it claims to be an electric guitar amp, acoustic guitar amp, and bass amp all in one. To confuse matters still further, it has instrument models that allow your acoustic or electric guitar to impersonate not only other guitars, but also baritone guitar, bass, electric violin, and sitar. If that smells a bit like a synthesiser to you, well, us too.
Much of the face of the 100 watt VIP 3 (standing for Variable Instrument Performance) is very familiar; there’s a jack input, a three band EQ (with pre and post gain which are more recognisable to our electric brethren), a master volume, and a separate volume for headphones. Next to the input, however, is a little backlit LCD screen and four more rotary controls. The first scrolls through the 400 pre-sets, all of which are user definable, and which, by way of letting you know how important you are as a demographic, include four acoustic pre-sets and four bass, along with 392 electric pre-sets. Next up we have the controls for creating your own patches, the first of which is the instrument/stomp box encoder, which seems to have two acoustic guitar patches (and lots of electric guitar stomp box patches), the second the amp encoder, which seems to have two acoustic specific amps, and then the effects encoder, which has a range of reverbs, flanges, phases and so forth. The unit also has a tuner, a built-in looper, and a USB port which allows it to communicate with your laptop. This might be a real blessing, since rotary knobs aren’t necessarily the most intuitive way to build a tone, particularly if you are selecting multiple effects (and the VIP 3 will allow up to five simultaneously, if you have the optional footswitch). The USB also allows you to record directly to your laptop, which for home musicians could be a massive benefit.
If there’s one thing Peavey are known for, it’s ruggedness, and the Vypyr certainly looks like it will stand the test of time, physically. It’s a fairly standard vinyl cabinet, with corner protectors and tautly stretched grille cloth over the single 12” speaker. The controls all seem fairly robust, with only a little circuit board wobble, and if the LCD display holds up, the amp should give service for years, in time honoured Peavey fashion.
As an acoustic amp, the Vypyr is, frankly, a lot to wrestle with. The first thing we achieved when plugging in was screaming distortion, since the first patch is a crunch electric guitar tone, and we had not thought to zero the master volume or indeed check the pre-gain, which was not quite up to 11, but far too close for comfort! A little fiddling got us into the acoustic pre-sets, and revealed some fairly decent tones, which wouldn’t embarrass the average box player on stage. A little more experimentation had us into the edit mode, creating our own tones. On top of selecting instruments, amps and effects with the three knobs under the LCD, entering edit mode repurposes many of the EQ controls as parameter controls for the patch, which can be confusing. Never forget, however, that the intention is not for you to attempt this on stage! In practice, just like a multi-effects unit, you build the tone you want, and store it and any others you will use very close to each other in the banks of patches, so you can access them quickly.
So what does it really sound like? Well, it sounds okay. It didn’t really sound like our test guitar, the chocolatey tones of the all-mahogany construction being a little lost in the generic acoustic guitar model. Mucking around with amp settings and effects does allow plenty of scope for control and creativity, but it’s still the same base tone you’re playing with. As an experiment, we plugged in a stray electric guitar that had somehow got past security at Acoustic HQ; what we found was that whilst you could tell the difference, a Squier Jazzmaster on the neck pickup didn’t sound hugely different to an all-mahogany Washburn dreadnought. Both, in fact, sounded like the digital model.
Experimenting with some of the other instruments was fun: the 12-string model can’t, of course, tell which string you’re playing, and, therefore, all the treble strings have an octave up added to them, which was an interesting and quite pleasing effect. The baritone guitar model was also quite useful, though when a bass model was selected, the tracking was notably slow, with the amp not managing to follow the playing. The missed opportunity, highlighted by the 12-string and baritone models, was for altered tuning models; most digital guitars give you the wherewithal to select open tunings, and many will allow you to create your own. More than anything, this gives away that the Vypyr is not an amp designed with the acoustic guitarist at the forefront.
This isn’t a tool for serious acoustic guitarists, and if you assume that it is, you’ll be disappointed. It is, however, an excellent, flexible tool for those who switch around a lot; if you primarily play electric, and would like to be able to plug an acoustic into the same amp for a couple of numbers, it could be your friend. Of course, at this price, you could get a good dedicated acoustic amp, but you couldn’t get all the variations of tones that you can get simply by plugging a Stratocaster into the Vypyr. If that extreme flexibility is what you need, then you’ll probably be very happy with the VIP 3, but if you want a main acoustic amp you should look elsewhere. It is, however, a powerful tool if you want something more than the common amplifier. Sam Wise
Model: Vypyr VIP 3
Retail Price: £329
Power Output: 100 Watts
Weight: 29 lbs. (13.30 kg)
Number of Channels: 1
XLR Input or ¼” Jack: Jack
Additional Inputs: mini jack aux
Speaker Size: 1 x 12”
Digital Effects: Very numerous!
Feedback Filter: No
EQ – Standard or Parametric: Standard
Outputs: USB Out
Floor Stand or PA Mount: Floor
Cover Included: No
Pros: Massive range of instrument, amp, and effect models.
Cons: Hardly any are acoustic, and none are your acoustic.
Overall; A good workhorse for its purpose, but not an acoustic guitar amp
Contact Details: Peavey